Newspapers’ books coverage is even less profitable than newspapers overall, and many book review sections are shrinking or disappearing completely. In an attempt to subsidize such coverage, the Guardian has partnered with the Amazon-owned digital audiobook site Audible.co.uk. Audible will sponsor the Guardian books homepage, book reviews and books podcast in print and online, though the paper stresses that that means branding and advertising, not editorial input. The companies are also launching “The Guardian Audio Edition,” a free weekly selection of articles read aloud.
“The Guardian Audio Edition,” available for download from the Guardian, Soundcloud, iTunes and Audible, will “showcase the very best of news, culture and opinion pieces as published in the Guardian each week.” It will also include
“weekly reviews of spoken-word content from Audible.co.uk, highlighting the best of genre fiction and non-fiction available to download. Reviews will be hosted by Claire Armitstead, Guardian News & Media’s books editor, Guardian books writer Richard Lea, and invited guest reviewers. As well as reviewing and critiquing each audiobook on its literary merits, the audiobooks panel will also discuss how narrative performance enhances the quality of the books.”
Audible has had a busy year. In April it launched Audible Author Services, a program that pays audiobook authors an extra $1 for every audiobook they sell at Audible.com, Audible.co.uk and iTunes. (The program was originally slated to run through December 31, 2013, but the company tells me it will continue “for the foreseeable future.”)
The program drew from a $20 million fund and is scheduled to run through December 31, 2012 (I’ve asked the company if it will continue after that). The company is also striking deals with literary agencies and publishers — most recently the AP Watt agency in the U.K. and publisher Diversion Books in the U.S. — to create digital audio editions.
Audible’s partnership with the Guardian gives the newspaper a way to subsidize its books content, but it could also be a good way for Audible to promote the exclusive audio content that it is signing up elsewhere. However, a Guardian spokeswoman told me that Audible has “absolutely no editorial input” and “will have no influence over the books that are reviewed within The Guardian Audio Edition.”